Security guards stop prayer, forcibly escort family out.
By Deepak Chitnis
WASHINGTON, DC: A Muslim family trying to pray on the observation deck atop the Empire State Building in New York has now filed a lawsuit because two of its security guards forcibly removed them in the middle of the religious activity.
Farhad Tirmizi, 32, along with his 30 year-old wife, Amina, and their two children, were visiting the Empire State Building on July 2 of last year, and happened to be on the observation deck at 11:00 PM that night. Their faith mandates that, at various times throughout the day, they must pray regardless of where they are. The four of them apparently found a relatively isolated part of the deck, which still had visitors, and began praying.
Shortly thereafter, however, two security guards found the family praying and told them they had to stop, or be forced to leave. According to the complaint, the guards poked the family with their hands and feet, eventually making them get up and “forcibly escorted” them out of the building. While Amina was able to finish her prayer, called “Namaz” by followers of Islam, the rest of the family was not, and now they’re claiming that their civil rights were abused.
The Tirmizis have filed suit in Long Island, NY, where they reside, against the Empire State Building’s management company, the security firm that it contracts with, and the two security guards — both of whom have been left unnamed — who were directly involved with the incident. The couple’s lawyer, Phillip Hines, has told media outlets that their First and Fourteenth Amendment rights were violated, and that discriminatory practices were used in making the couple leave during their prayer.
In an interview with the New York Post, Farhad Tirmizi said that he often prays in public out of necessity; in fact, earlier that day itself, he had prayed in public at the Staten Island Ferry terminal. Tirmizi asked a nearby police officer if he could go to a corner and pray, to which the officer acquiesced without incident, saying that it was not a crime to pray in public.
Other religious support groups have also come out in defense of the family, with Catholic League president Bill Donahue saying that he wishes the couple the best of luck in winning their lawsuit.
The Tirmizis are seeking $5 million in monetary damages, saying they were “shamed, humiliated and embarrassed in front of each other, their children, and the general public.”
Speaking to CNN, however, a representative with the Empire State Realty Trust said that the lawsuit has no merit and that they will vehemently fight the charges.